In a stunning women’s 10,000m championship, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana shattered the world record by running 29:17.46 to win the 10K title at the Olympic Games.
Alice Aprot Nawowuna of Kenya established an early lead among the competition with a 3:01 initial 1000m split. The world junior bronze medalist from Kenya took the field through 2000m in 5:55 and was followed by the Ethiopian powerhouse duo of world champion Almaz Ayana and defending Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba. The early move would set a precedent for the blazing fast pace that led the 10,000m championship.
Nawowuna’s front-running and brisk pace established an elite lead group early on, which included a loaded field of contenders. American Trials winner Molly Huddle attempted to run with the lead group, but was unable to hold the pace and found herself running alone around 12 minutes into the race.
Meanwhile, Nawowuna took the field through a blazing fast 5K split of 14:46. Huddle followed nine seconds behind in 14:55, just a few seconds slower than her American record 5K time of 14:42.
As if the pace wasn’t fast enough, Ayana shot to the front and established an even faster pace just after the 5K mark. With nine laps to go, Ayana found herself with a 20 meter lead on the field and with no challengers in sight. The only woman who attempted to come close was world champion Vivian Cheriuyot who still trailed Ayana by a sizable amount.
Ayana powered through 8K in 23:25, considerably faster than the world record pace set by Wang Junxia of China in 1993. On her way to setting the world record of 29:31, Junxia ran 23:59 for 8K.